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June 22, 2013
Zito's poignant outing gives way to key performances in 2-1 win

SAN FRANCISCO -- Summing up the Giants' 2-1 11-inning win over the Marlins on Saturday, Bruce Bochy said, "started with (Barry) Zito." Three days after his father's death, the left-hander pitched seven innings of one-run ball to help the Giants snap a nine-game losing streak at home against the Marlins. Tomorrow's print story will be heavy on Zito's performance and the respectful reactions of his teammates.

"Barry's the ultimate professional," catcher Buster Posey said. "But obviously when it's a family member, especially a parent, I can't imagine what he was gong through. But he had his routine and he stuck to it and he gave us a great performance."

Zito departed after the seventh to a standing ovation with the game tied 1-1, which gave a handful of other Giants players opportunities to play key roles in a win Bochy admitted was "right up there at the top" with games the Giants have needed to win this season.

* Sandy Rosario has bounced between Triple-A Fresno and San Francisco three times this season already, with his latest call-up on June 12. Since then he has pitched in five games and thrown at least 1 2/3 innings in each of the last four, allowing one run over those outings.

His outing Saturday "saved us," Bochy said. Rosario entered in the 10th with two on and one out and struck out back-to-back hitters. He also pitched a scoreless 11th with the help of Hunter Pence's diving catch to rob Placido Polanco of an RBI hit.

Rosario had a tumultuous offseason after being waived by the Marlins in October of last year. He was claimed by Boston, who then traded him to Oakland in November. The Red Sox claimed him back off waivers December 10, and two days later Rosario was claimed again off waivers by the Chicago Cubs. The Giants claimed him off waivers from the Cubs on December 21.

Likely for that reason, when asked after Saturday's game if he feels he has found a home in the Giants' bullpen, he smiled and said: "You never know."

"I just need an opportunity," he said. "Before every time I came out it was like if I didn't do good I'd probably get sent down. Now I'm just trying to pitch."

Still missing right-hander Santiago Casilla, and with George Kontos back down in Triple-A, there's a need for right-handed relief in the Giants' bullpen and Rosario has been key the past week. On Saturday, he punctuated his strikeout of Ed Lucas to end the 10th with a double fist-pump, and pointed exuberantly out to Pence after Pence's catch in the 11th.

"You haven't seen anything yet," Rosario said. "I'm trying to control myself. But you haven't seen anything."

* Gregor Blanco had three more hits out of the leadoff spot Saturday, including a double to drive in the Giants' first run in the fifth and an infield single that he beat out with a headfirst dive in the 11th before ultimately scoring the winning run on Hector Sanchez's walk-off single. Blanco is now batting .417 (25-for-60) in his last 16 games with eight extra-base hits.

The Giants are still waiting to find out if center fielder and leadoff hitter Angel Pagan will need surgery that could keep him off the field for six to eight weeks. Bochy said as long as Pagan is out, Blanco will "for the most part be leading off." Bochy likes the energy Blanco brings to the top of the lineup -- and production doesn't hurt either. After doubling in Zito, Blanco is batting .414 with runners in scoring position and two outs.

Blanco drove a ball into Triples Alley that bounced off the warning track to the top of the 20-foot brick wall, where a fan reached over and caught it. ("That's the benefit of a hard warning track, I guess," Zito said). Blanco was given a double, but Zito was allowed to score to tie the game. Marlins manager Mike Redmond earned his first managerial ejection arguing that Zito should have been held at third -- in cases of fan interference, it's up to the umpires' discretion where they believe the runners would have stopped.

Of course, Blanco had no intention of stopping at second.

"I was going for four," he said. "That's why I put my hands on my helmet."

Bochy said he too thought Blanco definitely would have reached third and might have had a chance at an inside-the-park home run based on the bounce the ball took over right fielder Giancarlo Stanton's head. The Giants didn't argue. Bochy also pointed out that Blanco didn't let a baserunning gaffe earlier in the game -- he was doubled off second base on a line drive to center field -- stay with him.

* Pence gave some interesting insight on his diving catch to end the 11th: "I'm playing Polanco a little shallow, a little over. He's really good at hitting those soft liners that way, he's made a living off of it for a long, long time. Really good hitter, and fortunately I was able to just get there."

Polanco could also make quite a living if he faced Zito every day. The veteran infielder had two hits in three at-bats against Zito on Saturday and is now 14-for-22 lifetime against Zito, a .636 average.

* It was pointed out to Bochy after the game that the Giants have not hit a home run since Blanco homered on June 14 off Kris Medlen in Atlanta. Bochy said he had already brought it up with hitting coach Hensley Meulens.

"I said, 'It's OK if we hit a home run,'" Bochy said, before getting serious. "The home runs are nice, but that's not our strength. They'll come. These things seem to be streaky."

Whether by coincidence or not, the Giants are 25-13 this season when they do hit at least one home run, and 13-23 when they don't.

* For Sanchez, who flipped the game-winning single into left field on the second pitch he saw from Ryan Webb after watching the first 10 innings from the bench, it was his third career walk-off hit. Sanchez was mobbed by teammates on the infield.

"That's one of those exhausting games," Bochy said. "It's good for these guys."

The Giants will try to split the four-game series tomorrow behind Matt Cain (5-3, 4.55). The Marlins counter with right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (0-0, 3.00) First pitch at 1:05.

-- Matt Kawahara

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About Bay Area Baseball

Matt KawaharaMatt Kawahara was born in Sacramento and attended McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley, where he wrote for the independent student paper The Daily Californian. He graduated from Cal in 2010 and started at The Sacramento Bee as a summer intern. He joined The Bee’s sports staff in fall 2011.
Phone: (916) 321-1015.
On Twitter: @matthewkawahara.

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